If you’ve ever had trouble viewing your camera’s LCD screen on a sunny day, or if you’ve ever missed critical focus on a video shoot, then you’ll want to read this. Even if you have previously thought an external monitor recorder was unnecessary in the past, you may be in for a surprise.
The new Atomos Ninja V is the latest external monitor and recorder from Atomos who are known for creating some of the most feature rich external monitor recorders in the industry.
What sets the new Ninja V apart from other products in their extensive lineup is its new smaller 5.2 inch form factor. Making it more suitable for someone looking for a lighter, compact and more portable external monitor and recorder in one.
The Atomos Ninja V can be used with larger camera rigs and it’s also well suited to DSLRs and smaller mirrorless cameras. In your hands the Atomos Ninja V feels very lightweight, weighing only 360 grams without an external battery attached and it is quiet solidly built.
For cameras that lack a flip out screen, a small, lightweight monitor recorder like the Ninja V will be great for vloggers who can now turn the video monitor towards themselves making vlogging a whole lot easier. The design seems very well thought out and it even includes the ability to add expansion modules in the future which I will cover later in this article.
Record up to 4K 60P 10 Bit 4:2:2 HDR Footage On Supported Cameras
Let’s dive into some of the features and there are a lot of them. One of the many advantages of the Atomos Ninja V is that it will allow you to record up to 4K 60P 10 bit 422 HDR footage on supported cameras via an HDMI 2.0 cable in Apple ProRes 422 HQ and Avid’s DNxHR format.
Another advantage of using the Atomos Ninja V is that it allows you to unlock certain camera limitations for example some cameras like the Canon EOS R will only record at 8 bit internally and 10 bit externally. The same can be said for cameras like the Nikon Z6 and Nikon Z7 which only record 10 bit 4:2:2 externally as well.
In regards to the Panasonic GH5 you can record up to 4K 60P 10 bit external and with the popular Sony A7 III camera you can record externally in 8 bit 4:2:2 vs the internal 8 bit 4:2:0 limitation and with the Fujifilm X-T3 you can record at 4K 60p 4:2:2 10 bit externally. The Atomos Ninja V also allows you to bi-pass some camera manufactures 30 minute recording time limit which is an important feature for some filmmakers.
The Cost Of Your Media Storage
Let’s talk about storage space, with a 1TB SSD you can record up to 150 minutes of 4K footage on a single drive. You may be wondering what are some of the advantages of using a SSD over an SD card which are commonly found in a lot of consumer level cameras.
One of the benefits and it’s an important one is the lower cost of storage compared to what you would pay for a fast 128GB SD card. For example a SanDisk Extreme Pro SD UHS II with a read speed of 300 MB cost upwards of $240 per card, which means 1TB of storage on SD cards would cost you roughly $1920.00
In comparison a Samsung 1TB EVO SATA III SSD with a read speed of 550 mb goes for roughly $290.00. Making the SSD a quicker and much more affordable storage solution for your media. You can also use the new smaller Anglebird AtomX SSD mini drives that are 20% smaller than standard drives which fit perfectly without protruding like the standard solid state drives do.
The Ninja V can also display up to 10 stops of dynamic range from Log/PQ/HLG signals and it also has a peak brightness of 1000 nits which is much brighter than what camera lcd screens can display, making it much easier for you to see what you are filming in daylight or bright conditions.
You can also calibrate your Atomos Ninja V with the X-Rite i1 Display Pro for more accurate exposure and color accuracy using their downloadable software. Along with the X-Rite i1 Display Pro you will need a special Atomos USB to serial lanc cable in order to calibrate your monitor recorder screen.
The Ninja V is also packed with features to help you get the best quality out of your videos, you will have access to a waveform monitor, vector scope, zebras, false color and focus peaking. It also gives you the ability to load in LUTs which is short for look up tables to help you to monitor your footage when you are recording in a flat log format such as Panasonic V-log, Sony Slog, Canon C-log or any of the other log formats it supports.
The supported log formats are: Sony SLog2 / SLog3, Canon CLog / CLog 2, Arri Log C,
Panasonic Vlog, JVC JLog, Red LogFilm, FujiFilm Flog, Nikon N-Log
You can also record audio to the Ninja V digitally via HDMI 2.0 from your camera or you can record analogue audio through 3.5 mic input jack. There is also a output jack for monitoring audio from the unit through headphones as well as built in audio level meters.
The screens are easy to navigate and seem well thought out, although at the time of launch there is only a small quick start guide which can be frustrating if you have never used an Atomos product in the past, hopefully by the time you read this article there will be a full PDF manual available online from Atomos’s website.
What No One Else Is Talking About
Here’s where it gets interesting and these are things that no one else is talking about. When you get the Atomos Ninja V it does not come with an SSD, or an HDMI cable to connect to your camera. So if you want to use it as a monitor and recorder you will have to purchase a compatible HDMI 2.0 cable that can pass through 4K 60P 10 bit 4:2:2 hdr data and you will have to purchase an SSD.
But that’s not all you will need, you will also have to purchase a Atomos USB docking station in order to upload your footage from the SSD to your computer.
If you want to shoot remotely on location without AC power you will also need to purchase a separate Sony NP-F type battery and charger if you don’t already own one. The NP-F batteries come in variety of different sizes and power ratings from different manufacturers and you can also get a branded Atomos Battery and charging kit.
If you are using a tripod or a mobile rig you will need a way to mount the Atomos Ninja V to your camera with something as simple as a cold shoe mount or something more elaborate like a camera cage with monitor attachment points.
If you plan on using a gimbal setup with the Atomos Ninja V you will have to find a way to attach the monitor to that as well. You may also find that with the extra weight of the monitor you may have to switch from something smaller like a Zhiyun Tech Crane 2 up to a larger heavier gimbal like the DJI Ronin S.
You can probably see where I am going with this, you will need quite a bit of extra gear that is not included to get the most out of the Atomos Ninja V so that is something no one is really talking about and it is something that is important to consider when factoring in the total cost to get the Atomos Ninja V up and running.
You can get a peek at the Ninja V user interface and menu system in this walkthrough video:
What I Liked About The Atomos Ninja V
I like that it is a lightweight and portable video monitor and recorder that helps to unlock certain camera features that you can not access any other way. I also like the overall weight, size, the professional feel, and also the screen brightness. I also like that it allows you to use cheaper, faster, storage, and it has less compressed codecs like Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHR which make it easier to capture 4k edit friendly footage. Not to mention the super helpful waveform monitor, vector scopes, zebras, focusing peaking, false color, and the ability to load LUTs for monitoring log footage.
What I Didn't Like
I would have preferred a mini XLR jack instead of a 3.5 mini mic jack but it makes sense from a design perspective why they were not able to include the mini size XLR jack. It would also have been nice to have an external XLR mic jack available as an expansion module on launch but hopefully that is something they are planning to release in the near future.
I also didn't like that there isn't a full owners manual available on launch which makes figuring out the unit a little more difficult if you are not already familiar with Atomos products. I also don't like that although on the product page it says you can calibrate the Ninja V with the X-rite i1 Display Pro you actually can't, at the time of this article. I've been informed that there should be a software update soon to make the Ninja V compatible with the Atmos calibration software.
Speaking of expansion modules at the time as I am writing this there are already two expansion modules available. The AtomX Ethernet/NDI and the AtomX Sync.
Another welcome addition in the future would be a SDI expansion module for those users who have an SDI output jack on there cameras which will allow recording in ProRes Raw format. Hopefully that is something they will be released in the near future but it is not guaranteed to happen.
What Issues Do They Still Need To Address?
The cooling fan can be a little on the noisy side if you have a Mic attached adjacent to the fan area and the monitor can get a little warm after a long period of time in the hot sun, although both are minor gripes and are not deal breakers in my opinion for most users. Hopefully both issues will be addressed in the near future with a firmware update.
In conclusion if you are looking for a five inch lightweight and portable, bright 1000 nit, 1080p monitor and recorder that can record 4k 60p 10 bit 422 HDR in Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHR then the Atomos Ninja V is worth a serious look. If you want to take your video productions to the next level then this is a great tool for most videographer's looking for a more portable solution.
If you have already picked one up, let me know if you have any helpful tips to share with the rest of us, in the comments below.